White House threatens terror insurance bill veto

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WASHINGTON, Sep 17 (Reuters) The Bush administration threatened today to veto a bill the US House of Representatives is expected to vote on this week that would extend a post-9/11 federal terrorism risk insurance programme.

''The administration strongly opposes efforts to expand the federal government's role in terrorism reinsurance,'' the White House said in a statement.

The bill would extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) through 2017. Adopted in 2002, after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, it made the federal government an insurer of last resort if private insurers could not handle massive terrorism damages.

Set to expire at the end of 2007, TRIA has been criticised by some as a subsidy to insurers. Some congressional Republicans say terrorism risk insurance should be left up to the private market.

TRIA supporters, mainly Democrats and big-city lawmakers, argue that private markets show few signs of being able to insure against terrorism and, some say, should not be expected to handle such risk.

The White House statement said: ''The most efficient, lowest cost, and most innovative methods of providing terrorism risk insurance will come from the private sector.'' It said the House bill ''effectively makes TRIA permanent, increases the role of the federal government, and expands the scope of coverage well beyond the point where it is needed.'' If presented as written to President George W Bush, ''his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,'' the statement said.

The Senate has not taken action on TRIA.

The House Financial Services Committee voted 49-20 on August 1 to extend TRIA for 15 years. The legislation is being closely watched by insurers and real estate developers.

The House measure would add group life insurance to TRIA; extend coverage to domestic terrorism, as well as foreign; and mandate coverage for nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological terrorism under certain conditions.

REUTERS RC BST0038

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